Megan Targett, the vocalist of the UK band VEXED is a force to be reckoned with. Having put out one of the most impressive albums of 2021 so far, VEXED are bringing the heavy sounds packed with emotion, assertion and vengeance. We had the pleasure of talking to Megan about the album “Culling Culture” and some of the inspiration behind the music. Check out our interview below.
MG: You just dropped your debut full-length album “Culling Culture” which is just incredible. Congrats on such a great final product! What are your feelings now that the album is finally available for everyone to hear?
Megan: It feels really weird and we’re kind of in disbelief about how well it’s gone down. Coming from a history of trying to be in bands and them not working, we’re kind of used to things never amounting to much or never being fully anything worthwhile listening to. So we knew we had something good, it felt like we had something good, but we didn’t know how anyone else would respond to it. The fact that it’s gone down well has completely blown our minds, it’s really such a weird feeling and we are just so incredibly grateful and can’t stop grinning from ear to ear to be honest.
MG: “Culling Culture” is one of the heaviest, most aggressive and technical albums I’ve heard in a while. Yet, there are so many catchy hooks and gorgeous melodies… what is your secret to having the perfect balance of heavy and melodic?
Megan: I don’t know if there is a secret. When I’m doing my vocals anyway, we kind of listen to what the lyrics are and then I’ll figure out as I go along what would sound better where. My approach is – if I’ve written something really vulnerable and something that’s maybe a bit more on the sad side I will sing it, because I feel quite vulnerable in my singing. But if I feel strong or powerful or angry, I scream it. So, we kind of work around it in that way and if there’s places or topics that need a bit more sensitivity we will go down the lighter route, and if there’s ones that are full-on aggression and hatred we go down the heavy route.
MG: The album is full of brutal, outrageous bangers, but one song that stands out for me in particular is “Aurora”. The song sounds sentimental, with an encouraging vibe to it…almost like a light at the end of a tunnel. The vocal runs in this song are nothing short of impressive and are packed with emotion… what is the inspiration behind “Aurora”, if you don’t mind?
Megan: No, of course, it’s fine. It’s not a very nice subject, I’ll just say that now. Unfortunately, when I was younger I was abused by two different men who dated my mom. I was in a horrible place as a young teenager. It was physical abuse, emotional, sexual. It was just a horrific, horrific time in my life at such a key age, where you’re kind of figuring out who you are. You know, you have struggles anyway as a teenager in a perfect family setting, let alone one that is just surrounded by violence and abuse. For years, I never wanted to talk about it, and I wouldn’t write songs about it, because I didn’t want to accept that it had happened. But then when VEXED became a thing, our whole driving force behind the band is to just say anything we want and to not hide behind anything anymore. So I was like ‘right, now is the time to speak about it’. So Aurora is me talking to my younger self and telling her that although everything you’re going through right now is horrific and awful, I promise you that it gets better and these people, it’s so unfair that they have such an easy life, but ours goes ten times further. It’s my way of talking to her and saying no matter how horrible things are right now, just keep praying and keep hoping and things actually do get better.
MG: So, you’ve obviously been very open in your lyrics and on social media about trauma and things you’ve had to overcome in your life, so I have to ask: is vulnerability a big part of connecting to fans and finding that catharsis within your music?
Megan: I think so, yeah. I mean, I’ve always been like that, before VEXED. I’ve always openly talked about stuff, as an adult anyway. Because I felt as though, it’s not that it needs to be normalized but that it needs to be exposed, like with all the women coming forward at the moment exposing monsters like Marilyn and stuff. It’s so important for these women and these victims to have a voice and feel like they’re not alone. So, now that I luckily enough have a platform to stand on and to shout from, I wanted to kind of show these other people and victims that you’re not alone and there’s somebody who does have this place where they can shout from a bit of a higher place. That’s the horrible reality of it but I will shout for them. It’s time to take these bastards down, they are not just going to get away with it anymore. I think it’s really important that people can see that I’ve been through it too, even if it’s horrible to talk about, and that they are not alone, and that I will literally do everything I possibly can to make sure these bastards get their comeuppance.
MG: Your music videos have a really interesting aesthetic with satisfying visuals from start to finish, super fun to watch.., Does the band dream up the concepts for videos together? What is that process normally like?
Megan: It’s an incredibly tedious process, I’ll be totally honest. Doing music videos in general is so difficult, but when we’ve been trying to do them during the pandemic it’s just been a nightmare. But it’s been really enjoyable once we are there and doing it. So we kind of had for each music video vague ideas of what we wanted. We wanted it to be like a horror theme, we wanted there to be red colours going throughout tying in with the album art and sort of the feeling of seeing red and representing anger. And then we passed it over to our amazing videographers Adam and Rich from Purple Yam. Adam is the biggest horror movie nerd you will ever meet and he’s so talented. So I’d be like ‘Okay I’ve got an idea, I want to be in this confession box and I want to be confessing to myself’, and he’d be like ‘Okay what if you’re doing that but you’re also spitting up blood and pushing nails into your hands’… and we just kept saying ‘Yeah, yeah, sure, fine!’…and he was having the best time. We gave him vague ideas and then he would just take it to that next level. For “Fake” I was tortured in that drowning scene for six hours straight making sure we got those scenes. I was absolutely battered and bruised and exhausted, but I had the best time. It was really quite funny.
MG: Yeah, “Fake” is such a cool video! I was actually watching it wondering when I saw the underwater singing part ‘um, how is she doing this?’ So I was wondering too when I saw that: what’s one thing you’d likely never do for a video?
Megan: I think I am pretty much open to anything unless it involves spiders. Which sounds so pathetic, but I can’t even look at a picture of one without feeling ill. I love the whole horror movie thing that we’ve got going on. We used a lot of maggots and stuff which was fine, I kind of got over that. And I have a fear of fake blood as well and I got over that, I had to put it in my mouth and pretend to be sick, so I got over that but… there’s absolutely no way you’d get me near a spider. Have you seen the Billie Eilish music videos where she has spiders?
MG: Yes, I am with you on that, honestly.
Megan: I could not do that. So, I’m pretty much open to anything but yeah, no spiders.
MG: Let’s talk about the album artwork. It’s one of the most interesting covers this year so far and obviously it can be interpreted in many ways. What does it represent for you?
Megan: For us it represents just pure anger and rage. It kind of stems from… I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this but if somebody’s ever upset you or pissed you off to the point where you just see red and you go get in your car and turn on the engine… and you sit there thinking ‘I’m gonna drive to their house and I’m gonna ruin their life’. And you’re just sat in that driver’s seat like ‘I’m gonna kill ‘em.’ And you have to kind of talk yourself out of it and eventually you turn the keys and you get out of the car and you walk back inside. It’s kind of that representation of when you’re so angry and just full of pain and rage that you don’t know what to do with yourself. So instead of driving to their house and doing something you’d regret you just… set the car on fire, I suppose. It’s pretty brutal but it’s amazing. It was designed by a guy called Rui (Rui Carneiro) from Portugal. We gave him the album when we first recorded it and kind of gave him an idea of what we wanted and that was the first draft he sent back and we were just like ‘Oh my god you’ve got it. You hit it straight on the head the first time.’ So, yeah, he’s a very talented guy.
MG: The band states that hate is one of your biggest inspirations to write music. What’s that one thing that you absolutely cannot stand? What irritates or pisses you off the most?
Megan: (laughs) How long have you got? So, the album itself is about individual people in my life I’ve gotten rid of for being toxic, and for using me or abusing me or anything like that. So it’s my way of kind of cancelling those individuals. So I suppose when it comes to the album it’s about what I hate. Those people who are taking advantage of the vulnerable and using other people for their own gain and disguising it as something that it isn’t. For example, “Hideous” is about a person who completely manipulated and controlled my family by pretending they had a mental illness when they didn’t. It was just the most horrific thing, and eventually it came out and everybody realized that they were just lying about it all. You know, finally I got my vindication but people that kind of lie or make up their own motives for just being an asshole is something that really gets to me and what the album is. But in general I think something that really pisses me off is anybody thinking that they have a right to say or do or treat you in a way that is anything less than positive, good, nice. There’s just no reason to be an asshole.
MG: So, talking vocals for a minute, what came first for you: clean singing or extreme vocals? Have you found one to be more challenging than the other?
Megan: The cleans came first. I was in little rock bands for years growing up, and I was singing. I wanted to start covering heavier songs and there was this guy in the band who wouldn’t let me. He was like ‘well, you’re a girl and you can’t cover bands with male vocalists.’ Eventually I kind of persuaded the band to let us cover those songs and those songs turned into even heavier things like Parkway Drive and Slipknot. And again he kicked off and was like ‘well we can’t do that because you can’t scream. I was like ‘well… you know what? You’ve told me I can’t do cover songs that are sung by men, and now you’re telling me I can’t do it because of screaming… well fuck you, I’m just gonna do both.’ And I decided to start learning how to scream because he told me that I shouldn’t and that I couldn’t. So it just came from me being a really, really stubborn person. But now I find screaming so much more easy than singing. I think I focused so much on making sure I could perfect my own technique that I neglected the singing a little bit. Although I absolutely love singing, I feel far more nervous and vulnerable when I start singing because I know how much more difficult it is for me than the screaming. So, I prefer screaming but there is a time and a place and a love for singing.
MG: The band met through a local scene and played in a different band before. In one interview you said that you weren’t really satisfied with and feeling that music anymore so you decided to form VEXED. Is this album a representation of what you’ve always wanted to achieve musically?
Megan: Yes, you’ve summed it up perfectly. We were all in different bands and then eventually the boys, apart from Al, joined this old line up of a band because I didn’t have any members left and we were just trying to carry these songs none of us liked. It was just awful because all of those songs had been written by really old members and myself, at a time when I was trying really hard to fit into the mold that I thought I should or needed to fit in. I was kind of being really controlled by the members and was told that I needed to sound like this or say this or wear this. I don’t know why I kept trying to carry it on for so long. I think when you do something for so long it kind of becomes normal and you realize, ‘Oh actually, I do have control of this, I can just stop it’. And so we’re just like, ‘Yeah, let’s kill it off, we don’t actually have to carry on doing this.’ So yeah, VEXED is literally everything that all of us have ever wanted to do, which is completely authentic to us. We say and write and wear whatever we want and it’s just so liberating and I feel complete freedom. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful men that support that and never ever censor me in any way. I’m a very lucky lady.
MG: I’ve seen people comparing VEXED and your sound to many bands. What were some of the most flattering and/or maybe some of the strangest comparisons?
Megan: The most flattering…I got called the other day the female version of Frankie Palmeri from Emmure and I could have cried because he is one of my absolute vocal heroes. The boys often get compared to Meshugga which is absolutely insane because that’s just not possible… they are far too good, like, we are not worthy of that. But it’s, again, very cool. We often get, as I’m sure you’re aware, and being a woman in the media as well, you just get told that you’re copying every other woman all the time. I get told I’m just trying to be Jinjer, Spiritbox, Evanescence, Nightwish… you name it, I’ve been told I am trying to be them. It’s just funny. At first it used to piss me off because it was like, I’ve never even listened to these bands so how could I be trying to copy them? And I went and checked them out and they are amazing, they are such cool bands and there is just no need to kind of put women up against each other. I don’t understand it. We’re all entitled to our own space in this scene and in this world. If we are told that we can’t be inspired by each other, what is that gonna do to the younger generation that want to be in bands? It’s stupid. If there are any girls out there that want to be in bands and want to sound exactly like me: go for it! Because ultimately everyone is copying each other in some way, everybody is inspired by something. I think all the stereotypical female fronted band comparisons happen a lot and it’s incredibly frustrating because before that I had never heard of them. But in a way it’s quite nice because they’ve introduced me to some really cool bands.
MG: What’s next in store for VEXED?
Megan: Honestly at this moment, I don’t know because of, you know, the obvious current situation. But we’ve got Bloodstock booked for the UK, hopefully that goes ahead. We just want to be able to tour and play literally anywhere the world will allow us. We would get on a plane tomorrow and fly to… I don’t even know… anywhere, to play in someone’s bedroom. We will literally go anywhere and do anything. But we are writing our second album at the moment. So as soon as we have been given the opportunity to get out there and tour “Culling Culture”, we want to release another album and hopefully just play everywhere that the world will allow us.